Driverless vehicles: a blueprint for successful implementation
Commitments in the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill will be of major interest to corporate insurers and those concerned with the changing motor liability framework. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure the UK continues to be at the forefront of developing new technology in electric and automated road vehicles.
Our report into the way autonomous vehicles could revolutionise the way we transport modern societies is, therefore, timely.
We have sought to provide a detailed perspective on the views of end-users in terms of overall levels of public support, as well as views on how the new technology should be developed and applied.
The report finds:
- Safer roads: Overall, only 44% of UK adults support the use of driverless cars. Despite the prospect of fewer road traffic accidents being very real and that driver error is currently the main cause of road traffic accidents in the UK, there is still a widespread view that humans exercise better judgement than computers.
- Public concern is greater when considering driverless commercial vehicles: People are uncomfortable sharing the roads with driverless commercial vehicles. Only 20% of people are comfortable with the idea of driverless heavy goods vehicles being allowed on our roads, while 40% said they would be less inclined to get on board a driverless bus.
- Support for automation has its limits: The notion that the driver should be able to take over control of the vehicle is central to the public’s concept of what kind of technology they would want to see developed. Over two-fifths of respondents support the notion that vehicles could in future be allowed to drive on the UK’s roads without a human taking control at the steering wheel.
- Changing insurance: Lower insurance premiums over time was seen as a benefit. The survey also suggested the major impact on insurance of changing car-use habits. Though still some distance in the future, already 13% of respondents envisaged that would mean taking out insurance on demand, rather than an annual policy.
- Personal data: People are concerned about the capability of driverless cars to collect, store and transmit large amounts of personal data. The possibility of computer hackers taking control of cars made around two-thirds of people “extremely concerned”, while 49% were similarly worried that insurance companies would use the data to increase premiums.
- Improving the driver experience: Driverless cars seem like an affront to those who enjoy motoring: 40% thought it would make driving less fun. However, there are many potential benefits for drivers.
- Social benefits: Never having to worry about falling asleep at the wheel or being able to drink alcohol and still ‘drive’ are obvious benefits. However, the real social transformation lies in extending social inclusion and independence to Britain’s elderly, disabled rural communities.
The Queen’s Speech highlighted the government’s determination to put the UK at the forefront of developing autonomous vehicle technology.
This research demonstrates how autonomous vehicle technology could affect real social transformation in extending social inclusion and independence to Britain’s elderly, disabled and rural communities.
- However, the government cannot ignore the high levels of public concern. As we have seen with previous innovations – such as genetically modified foods - the failure to first explain the benefits of the technology and secure public support, can have a profound impact on its long-term adoption.
Our ‘blueprint for successful implementation’ sets out what the government, motor manufacturers and insurers need to take into account to ensure the successful integration of driverless cars into society. For insurers, this includes:
- Becoming fully involved in efforts to develop the new technology to help them better understand the changing profile of risk when insuring the new vehicles and the impact on premium levels and pricing models where premiums are intrinsically linked to vehicle safety.
- Commissioning their own end-user research to fully understand the likely changing patterns of car ownership and its consequential impact on consumer demand for distinct types of insurance cover.
- Product development teams creating new types of policies to reflect the changes in customer behaviours. This might also result in motorists buying motor insurance in different ways, for example, insurance could become more of an ancillary sale aligned with the sale of new cars. Insurers need to anticipate the changing relationship between themselves and motor manufacturers.
- Educating existing customers about the new types of technology coming onto the market and how that is likely to impact on vehicle safety and insurance premiums, as well as reassuring customers that their data will be used in an open and transparent way.
We hope our report will play a role in helping to promote greater public engagement and debate around what will be a significant social change. We will continue to seek to open up the conversation to all those with a vested interest in the autonomous vehicle journey – for which insurers have a real opportunity to play a prominent role.